11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty he golden oil out of themselves?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.
The… TWO anointed ones? There are certain cult groups (and a contingency of Jews) which purport a double Messiah belief, and which use this passage to verify that there is, in fact, not one, but TWO Messiahs. I first came accross this some years ago (probably when I was in highschool) when I saw a book at a used bookstore, something about the ‘Two Messiahs’ which was (I believe) a Freemason publication. In 2014, I wrote a book about John the Baptist, and since found out about the Freemason fixation on him (John the Baptist), as certain ‘market competitor’ books (not that there are many) about John are clearly produced by Freemasons. Some teach John the Baptist was the ACTUAL Messiah, and that Jesus basically stole the thunder of John, the true Messiah. Wierd, right? Its teaching that can be traced back to the Knight’s Templar, along with other strange and anti-Gospel teachings that crop up into popular speculation now and then.
Actually, I reference this prophecy briefly in both of my books, as this passage speaks both of the coming of John the Baptist, and is also specifically tied to the prophecy of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
The passage above can be quite misleading if we don’t know what it means (like any passage of scripture); without comprehension and removed from its context it does easily fit into the category of ‘proof text’ for a double Messiah doctrine. The correlation between ‘Messiah’ and the ‘anointed ones’ is definately present. In fact, Messiah means, ‘anointed one.’
However, this vision of the two anointed ones, and the golden candlestick (the candlestick is the image in the vision representing the Messiah) is actually a very profound unveiling of the New Covenant era (the coming of Christ), which we ought to comprehend well prior to looking at the later prophecy of the two messengers of Revelation. If we don’t see the Gospel-core of any prophecy, we will be misled as to the further implication of their meaning. In this case, since Zechariah prophesied prior to Christ’s coming, we need to understand the prophecy under the context in which it was given, the latter prophecy will [predominantly] be clarified by the first, not the other way around.
So, let’s look at the image: At the begining of chapter four, Zechariah describes seeing a candlestick which is flanked on the right and on the left by two olive trees. The olive trees each have a tubelike branch which feeds oil into the candlestick. This, itself, is quite baffling to the modern reader as to its meaning because the oil – representing the Holy Spirit – originates from the two trees… if Jesus is the candlestick, does that mean He had to get the Spirit of God from these two… anointed ones?
So perplexed by this image, Zechariah asks the angel that spoke with him a total three times what the image meant. In fact, the angel begins to answer the first time the question was asked but the answer seems only to add further ambiguity to the revelation.
To understand the imagery, it’s important to have a good deal more context than this image, alone. First of all, this picture in chapter four is only part of the vision. The vision actually began in Zech. 1:7, and ends in chapter six. But even prior to assessing the context of this image within the vision, there is the historical context of the vision, itself.
Zechariah has returned to Jerusalem after the seventy year Babylonian exile with a large group of priests, Levites and Jewish proffessionals at the command of the King of Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, and the temple of God. Other books of the bible which are contemporary of Zechariah’s ministry include Ezra and Nehemiah. The over-arching prophetic message of the period is that the exile is over, and God is calling His people back – specifically to Jerusalem. While the implications of many of hese prophecies are taken to be Zionistic their deeper spiritual meaning speaks of the coming Messiah.
Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah (and others) all had prophesied that after the exile, God would bring His people back to Israel, that they would be united as a singular nation and in this condition that Messiah would come (see also post: Ezekiel 37 and the End Times (?)). The prophets whose ministry was during this gathering back to Jerusalem were already aware of these [now scriptural] promises. Further, the prophetic period (of God’s gathering His people together) became a typological centerpiece of their ministry. That is to say that while they were preaching to their present situation by encouraging the Jews to return to the land, their spiritual message extended to the soon coming Messianic age (the coming of Christ). In this context, God gathering of the Jews to Isreal was also a prophetic type of the coming of Christ when God would call all nations together unto Himself through the covenant of Jesus Christ.
In Zechariah chapter 1, this vision begins – while we will not go exhaistively through he types and images of the previous parts of the vision – the context of the vision and its meaning overall is essential to understanding the image of the olive trees and the lampstand. I the first chapter, it is revealed to Zecheriah that while it was God who dispersed the Jews seventy years earlier, God was now calling them back together unto Himself. The typology is of Jerusalem: God had chosen Jerusalem again, and was calling His people back to the city. Again, the New Testament correlation is that at the coming of Messiah, God will call all nations together unto Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2 & 3)
In the second chapter, Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line who is going to go to measure the city of Jerusalem (Zech. 2:1). The meaning of this image, it is explained is that Jerusalem will no longer be measurable as an earthly city is measured by the borders of its walls, but that its borders will extend indefinately based on the number of people who live there (2:4), and God, Himself will be the boder, and wall around the city. This is a clear indication of a spiritual, rather than an earthly city of Jerusalem which would be established under the coming system of the Messiah, who declared: ‘…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37)
The chapter continues this theme of the promise of universal salvation [to all who recieve the Messiah]:
‘And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day [when Jesus comes and establishes New Jerusalem], and shall be my people…’ (2:11)
Then, in chapter 3, Zechariah sees the man who was the High Priest, a man named Joshua (which, interestingly is a variant of the name that will be given to the coming Messiah: Yeshua, whom we call Jesus (Matt. 1:21)). The vision of chapter 3 is a prophecy of Christ removing our sins (those of us who recieve Him). Joshua is the image of the Christian who is forgiven of his sin, and cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice.
Chapter 3 culminates in this direct specific prophecy of the coming of Christ:
8 Hear now, O joshua the high priest… for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
9 For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: BEHOLD I WILL ENGRAVE THE GRAVING THEREOF [(God, Himself, would engrave the Stone (Jesus Christ), i.e. He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquity; as Isaiah said: ‘It pleased the LORD to bruise him…’ (Is. 53:10) the engraving represents the scurging and crucifixion of Christ)], saith he Lord of hosts, AND I WILL REMOVE THE INIQUITY OF THAT LAND IN ONE DAY.
Ok, so before we even touch chapter 4, the entire vision of the book book points toward a single Messiah, and the era of His reign – the New Testament age; gathering of disciples unto New Jerusalem from all nations.
So who are the two olive trees, which are called the two anointed ones? The pat answer which one always hears without further understanding would be Moses and Elijah (you may have heard it before), and that is partly [in fact, mainly] correct, but it also gives no explanation to the oil running from the trees and into the lampstand [Messiah], and it may mislead us if we take it to mean Moses and Elijah, the men. (Note the Jews thought Elijah the man would return from heaven to precede Messiah (because of Malachi 4:5 & 6), they therefore missed the fact that Elijah DID come before Messiah, albeit not Elijah the man, but John the Baptist who came in the Spirit and power of Elijah (Matt. 7:11-13 & Luke 1:16 & 17).)
Context: so in Zachariah’s time, the earthly city of Jerusalem, and the physical temple is being rebuilt. These events become the types of the coming kingdom of Messiah. It is being revealed to Zechariah that they are rebuilding the city, and the temple to prepare a place for the Messiah to come (which, historically, is what happened: the city and temple were rebuilt, and remained standing until Jesus came to a unified Israel and earthly temple – albeit under Roman oppression).
In chapter 3, Joshua – the man who was high priest at the time – became the imagery of a man saved by Christ. In chapter 4, when Zechariah first asked the angel the meaning of the olive trees, and of the lampstand, the angel began to speak about another priest in the time of Zecheriah named Zerubbabel. In the content of what is said, Zerubbabel represents the coming ministry of repentance which would be a precursor of Messiah’s coming. Zechariah 4:6-10 is a prophecy of the coming of John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elijah: the man who would be the first to preach salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Just as is prophesied in Malachi (3:1), and elsewhere, God would send a MESSENGER to lay the foundation of Christ’s Kingdom.
In Zechariah’s day, Zerubbabel oversaw the laying of a literal foundation of the earthly temple, but this was a prophetic analogy of John’s laying a spiritual foundation of the True temple: Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11; John 2:18-22).
The olive trees are Moses and Elijah, indeed; but not those men specifically, rather the spirit and power of each one’s message. Typologically, Moses brought the message of salvation to the Jews through the Law; Elijah brought the message of repentance: our NECESSARY response of agreement and participation with the plan of salvation (Ye must repent and believe in Christ to be saved (Acts 19:30)).
More specifically, the two trees represent the preaching of the Gospel. How is it that the two anointed ones feed oil (the Holy Ghost) into the lampstand (the Messiah)? Salvation can come only by the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:13-17); the light of the lampstand which is the message of Christ must be preached in order to gain illumination.
We sometimes (particularly Pentecostals) have a backward theology on this as though salvation came only through the anointing, and not through the message of salvation. When signs and wonders become our evangelism technique, and the Gospel takes a backseat to displays, we have put the cart before the horse. This revelation of Zechariah shows that the anointing, and the Gospel message are reciprocal of one another, but the primary basis is preaching the Gospel – this is what brings the anointing, and that which illuminates Christ to mankind.
Well, I was going to also discuss some of the following chapter for further contextual clarity, but as I’m running a bit long, I’ll end here with a final motivational thought:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (1 Tim. 4:2-4)